Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Commercial Cash Cow

In a world overrun with product placement and constant commercial bombardment, we, as hockey fans were subject to advertisements placed only on the boards and around the arena. Then it was the four logos in the neutral zone. Then some mutt came up with the idea of selling the naming rights of those arenas to big corporate sponsors. So instead of classy Boston Garden, we're left with an alphabet soup compass lesson in TD Banknorth Garden. Or my personal favorite, in downtown Tampa we used to have the Ice Palace, but now we have St. Petersburg Times Forum. (Which will fold first? The paper or the team?) Hard to stomach, but I can live with it. But now they're threatening the one thing we hold dear. The team uniform.

For all that's decent and holy, don't succumb to this money-hungry, greed-driven idea of turning the pristine jersey into a car bumper.

European sports teams have long ago given into the whore of sponsorship, by allowing uniforms to become this kind of ridiculousness.

Don Garber, Major League Soccer Commissioner, stated,
"In the soccer world, sponsorship on jersey fronts is part of the DNA of the sport. Nobody outside the U.S. looks at that as abnormal."

His league was the first to give in to that European model in 2007, with the Los Angeles Galaxy seizing the opportunity and cashing in on a $4-5million per year contract with Herbalife. The league established a sponsorship minimum for the front at $500k, with $200k of it going to the league, no online gambling or alcohol sponsorships are allowed. As of the beginning of the year, 11 of the 15 MLS teams have corporate logos displayed prominently on the front of their jerseys to match with the league-wide sponsorships on the backs which had always been in place.

Granted, soccer, or futbol, is not a traditional North American sport, hell we don't even use the right word for it. Its roots are in Europe, where, as Garber states, brand name sponsorship is part of the identity of each of the squads. And not being a traditional North American sport, the MLS has had difficulty in producing a profit. In the first 10 years of the league's existence, it was reported that it had lost a total of $350million. Makes sense then to cash in any way you can, right?

Which is why the WNBA has given permission to its teams to allow "front page" sponsorship, to cover its financial losses. Its been stated that its "father" or "brother" league the NBA, has spent up to $12million per year covering the losses of the WNBA. (What? You like layups? Off the glass for two!) Only two teams in the WNBA have secured sponsorship, whether that's due to lack of trying, or lack of interest is unknown.

Joe Maloof, part owner of both the NBA Sacramento Kings and the WNBA Monarchs states that,
"It's a new economic climate now. Any time you can generate revenue in the right way, you should be able to do it. You have to. If we can find the right partner, why not?"

Which makes me think that he can't find a "partner" willing enough to pony up for the real estate.
The NBA is in the process of working out the format for their jersey-filled corporate sponsorships, but when training camp starts, teams will have the green light to sell off their practice jerseys. Some NFL teams have done the same, taking "donations" from local businesses to place their patches on their practice jerseys, after the league opened up that possibility last offseason. The Tennessee Titans have been collecting checks from a local Nashville hospital since their move from Houston, and the New York Jets stand to make $2million per year with an area-based healthcare company for advertising that will never see any playing time, only practice dummies.

I'll be honest, I really don't care what's on the practice jersey. I don't get to enough training camps to really give a damn. But its just the start, it spreads from there as the dollars roll in, and "we" look at other areas to capitalize. Then it starts small, advertising patches on the shoulder of the game jersey, so as not to overwhelm us.

Because when we're building a project in Anchorage, the first thing we need to think is to go Union. This is like the U.S. government advertising the new $20 bill, as if we're going to start using pesos because we don't like the design.

So after one patch, we add another on the other shoulder. And then another, and another, until slowly, but surely, it becomes this...

where players can pop the collar for that extra level of cool.

With the exception of the NFL and maybe the NBA, the MLS and WNBA are cash strapped leagues in need of any resource available to earn an extra buck. We've all heard, and celebrated, the rumors that the NHL is overtaking the NBA in terms of popularity, so for argument's sake, let's say they're roughly at the same level. I find it extremely hard to believe that both the NHL and NBA are in such financial dire straits that they would need to resort to the desecration of the game jersey.

It makes professional sports look amateur.

- This rant all started from Wyshynski's 1 -2 part piece on advertising on uni's, which stemmed from USA Today's original piece. All actual facts and quotes are borrowed from those respectable sources.

1 comment:

hockeyimbf said...

I just found your blog and it's great! The first time I saw a Euro hockey sweater it took ten minutes (ok, so maybe not that long but it felt like it) to find their freaking last name.